Building a Glycine Airman Collection

Watch Stories

I set out to find the perfect Glycine Airman for my collection and ended up with an Airman collection instead. Here’s how it happened. I didn’t like the traditional Airman style when I first learned about it. Prioritizing legibility in my watch selections, I saw the dials as busy with all 24 hours listed in Arabic numerals. While liking the idea of the Airman, I was not sold on the execution quite yet.

While looking for a quartz GMT or worldtimer, to prepare for upcoming travel to East Africa, I stumbled across the Glycine Airman World Traveler and was immediately smitten with its looks. The World Traveler employs the same case design as other Airman models but features a unique dial for the Airman line with a two tone chapter ring for identifying day and night on the 24 hour scale and cities around the world situated on the rotating bezel. I liked the idea of owning a watch in the Glycine Airman line and spent 6 months looking for the World Traveler with the tan dial before I managed to track one down.

The more traditional Glycine Airman models started to appeal to me around 6 months later as I learned more about the line’s history and came to appreciate the 24 hour purist approach to a watch. Maybe the dial wouldn’t seem so busy if I was using the 24 hours to read the time, rather than trying to ignore them while reading 12 hour time like a GMT. I purchased the Airman Base 22 with a blue degrade dial and realized once it was on my wrist that I really liked how it looked. I wore the watch for a flight in a 1972 Cessna over San Diego and just loved wearing it for an adventure like this. I kept coming back to the pictures of this flight as I considered over the following year which Airman to make a part of my collection.

Then I started overthinking the matter and posted a thread on WatchUseek to see if others preferred the Airman purist or GMT. I received responses on both sides but one pilot in particular really made sense when he explained the value of being able to track the time in 3 time zones with a GMT, rather than just 2 with a purist. Since I travel for work, I realized that it would be helpful to track local time, GMT and home time so I decided to let go of the Base 22 Purist and to look for a GMT instead.

The Airman Base 22 GMT dial did not seem right to me when I received it. The markings for the odd hours had to be ignored since the hour hand was tracking with typical 12 hour time. I found this distracting when glancing at the time. Also, the watch that I purchased, although new, came with a misaligned GMT hand off by 20 minutes. After returning the watch, I decided that I would keep an eye out and try to repurchase another Base 22 Purist on a bracelet.

Thinking I had plenty of time, I wasn’t in a hurry to find another Airman until I started noticing that grey market dealers in the US were running out of some of the older models. Realizing that this would mean prices would likely go up, I started watching the market even more closely but with no luck. While searching for a Base 22 Purist on a bracelet, I managed to find an SST-12 purist with a blue dial. I purchased the watch thinking that maybe I would like it better than the Base 22 and just go with the SST-12 instead. They both featured blue degrade dials and the SST-12 came on what seemed like a very fitting Milanese loop.

While continuing to keep an eye out for the Base 22 on a bracelet, I wore the SST-12 often. I liked the watch but every time I saw pictures of the Base 22 on my wrist from when I had one, I realized that I still needed to compare the two watches in person to make up my mind.

When I bought the SST-12, I thought that it would replace my World Traveler as the one Glycine Airman in my collection. I eventually accepted that I did not really want to sell the Airman World Traveler and decided to break the arbitrary rule that I had set for myself to stick with one watch per brand. Instead, I started to think that a two or three-watch Airman collection would be ideal as a set. By this time, I was also a regular contributor to the Glycine Watch Collectors group on Facebook and was realizing how fun it was to develop a deeper focus on a single brand, even within a broader watch collection.

As late summer 2020 came around, I noticed that Glycine Airman prices were rising fast. The DC-4 in particular had just jumped by several hundred dollars after selling out on the grey market so I decided to purchase the first one I could find at a good price just to try it out and be sure that it was not one of my top choices to join the set. I also found a No.1 a few weeks later and purchased it as well, again, to cross it off my list only after firsthand experience.

Enjoying the 40mm No.1 and still not finding a Base 22, I thought that maybe I should open my my mind to the smaller Airman 18 which at 39mm always seemed to small for me with its large bezel. I found somebody that would let me try his 18 to see if it might be the right fit for my collection. After experiencing it, I found the Airman 18 not quite the right fit for me. The DC-4 purist was also nice but after trying a range of Airman options, I still wanted a Base 22.

One day in late August, it finally happened. The Base 22 on a bracelet and in brand new condition showed up on eBay. I purchased it so happy to finally have found the watch that I had been looking for. Much to my surprise, an SST Chronograph also showed up the next day and I bought it up. With seven Glycine Airman watches in hand, it was time to narrow down to the two or three watch Airman collection that I had set out to find.

The Airman Base 22 Purist immediately reminded me why I had looked so long and hard to repurchase the watch. I loved the blue dial, the classic design, the robust case and the well-fitting engineer bracelet. There was only one Base 22 that I thought I might enjoy more. While reading release notes from way back when the watch was first released, I learned about the Airman Base 22 GA. Glycine had swapped the primary hour hand onto the GMT spot on the movement and placed a smaller secondary hour hand as the 12 hour hand. The benefit to this design is that the watch reads time like a purist but the primary hour hand is also quickset, allowing a traveler to quickset to a new time zone while traveling without hacking the movement.

I loved the idea traveling with the only Airman ever made to function like a “true GMT” (as some call it) but didn’t think I would find one. The GA was a rare variant and by this time, I had only ever seen one of them up for sale in almost 2 years of watching Airman sales. When one showed up for sale in October I was ecstatic. Not only did my new Base 22 GA having the jumping hour hand, it was also the only Airman to feature lume on both the primary and secondary hour hands. I had finally found my Glycine Airman!

While still trying to decide how many Airmans I could allow myself to keep as a part of the collection, I listened to an episode of my favorite watch podcast, Beyond the Dial. The discussion proposed a distinction between the watches that are part of a rotation versus those that are a collection. A rotation in this case would represent a set of watches that are purchased for regular wear while a collection is more just for the fun of having a set of themed watches. This got me thinking that maybe I should keep an Airman “collection” alongside the rest of my watch rotation. I’ve been trying to figure out how to limit my Airman collection ever since.

This is how I set out to find the perfect Airman and ended up trying just about every unique model I could get my hands on. I currently have 10 Glycine Airman watches in the collection but still have a few more that I want to try and haven’t even started trying to track down vintage pieces. It’s been fun building the collection and I’ll share more in future posts about my reflections on the various models and which ones I end up keeping.

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